people will agree that social change comes from a combination of public,
government and industry commitment. To become engaged in this process, a
good place for each of us to start is with changes that are easiest to
make and that are most within our personal control.
When it comes to reducing our contribution to climate change there
are so many ways we can direct our focus. Switching to alternative
energy sources and selling the car(s) may be ideal, but it may not be
practical - even for the most devoted environmentalist. Reducing our
energy use is a simple alternative and is the bridge to bigger
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
To reduce energy use, it is important to start out with clear but
realistic goals. Take a look at your current CO2 production. If you have
access to the Internet, a good site is "www.climcalc.net".
This site has a computer-based tool that calculates your emissions for
you and provides feedback on how to reduce your emissions. If you prefer
the manual way, there are a few conversion factors that can help you get
a ballpark figure of what you produce in a year. You can then set goals
to reduce your consumption.
Kilowatt Hours (kWh)
The formula for converting kilowatts into greenhouse gasses is
different for every province because each province has different ways of
producing electricity. In New Brunswick, most of our electricity is
generated through thermal (coal and oil) and nuclear power plants,
unlike other provinces that rely more heavily on hydro- powered
electrical plants. Multiply kWh’s used by 1.12 to get the kilograms of
CO2. For example, if you use 1314 kWh of electricity you produce 1471.68
kg (or 1.47 tonnes) of CO2. To reduce your emissions on this front,
consider upgrading to energy efficient appliances and lighting and even
using your appliances less. If your home has electric heat make sure you
are using your heat as wisely as possible.
Check the oil bills or the oil delivery slips that are dropped off at
your house after each fill-up to see how much fuel you use over the
year. Make sure that you are not missing any of the slips! If you have a
good memory (or are a reasonably good estimator) or if you keep good
records, this will be fairly easy to do. Otherwise you can call your oil
company or wait until the next heating season to collect this
For household oil, take the total number of liters that you use for
the year and multiply it by 2.86 to find out how many kilograms of CO2
you are creating. Next winter, wear an extra sweater, exercise more, and
turn down the heat at night to see your greenhouse gas emissions go
down. Also, consider draft-proofing your home.
How many liters our car burns in the run of a year is not a figure
most of us have on hand, not to mention the
motorcycle, lawn mower,
skidoos or other gas-powered machines that are filled up on a regular
basis. Your car can burn up to 50% more in the winter and a poorly tuned
car can increase by just as much again. Do you keep track of your gas
bills? Maybe you charge them all on your credit card and can refer back
to that. Or maybe you always fill your 30-liter tank once a week. When
you establish how many liters you go through in a year, multiply by 2.36
kg to get the CO2. A well-tuned car and a switch to less driving should
show a measurable reduction of your impact. And, if you are in the
market for a new vehicle, you might want to consider a more energy
efficient model. Transport Canada publishes a good Fuel Consumption
Guide that compares hundreds of different makes and models of vehicles
on their city and highway consumption ratings.
Carbon Dioxide and Trees
Trees need a certain amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) to survive. In
fact, trees absorb moisture from the soil and carbon dioxide from the
air, and use sunlight to turn them into a kind of sugar called glucose.
This gives trees the nutrients and energy they need to grow. The way
plants turn water and carbon dioxide into sugar is called
Some scientists have calculated how much carbon dioxide a tree can
absorb in a year. It is difficult to generalize because some trees are
bigger than others, and younger trees require more nutrients than older
ones. However, on average it is estimated that one tree will remove 3
kilograms of CO2 from the air over the course of one year. Keep this in
mind, both when you’re thinking of planting or considering clearing
some trees or bushes.
Take the Plunge
While these calculations do not take into consideration the effects
of all your lifestyle choices, it can give you an idea of where you are
starting from. Why not take the plunge and pledge to reduce your
emissions by 20% in the coming year?
As environmentalists, we have a responsibility to educate others
about their impacts and how we can tread more lightly on the earth.
Having the hard numbers to show what we have done can go a long way to
show that we’re not just full of hot air!
Greenhouse Gas & Computers